Sunday, 28 October 2012

Playing Descent at October's FNG

Review of Descent Second Edition
That's a lot of action to pack in to such a little little dungeon

Having had our second night of dungeon delving using the new Descent Second edition rules I feel confident to give it a review.

First up the changes from the first edition that I feel have made the greatest improvement to the game- Combat dice, Mission Length and Token Removal.

Combat Dice

This shouldn't take too long with the new combat system

The reduction on the amount of maths required for each attack has drastically reduce play time, analysis paralysis and encourages players to concentrate on their character rather than trying to get the right weapon for the job. Previously players had the option of spending the surges rolled on the attack dice multiple times causing them to slow down their turns as they looked for the optimum combination to cause maximum damage. Now as players can only use a card’s ability once and the number of dice for each attack has been reduced to two on average players tend to resolve their attacks within moments of the dice roll. Add to this the inclusion of defence dice rather than known armour values and you not only create the opportunity for any attack to succeed but you create a moment of tension with every attack.

Mission Length
Each dungeon is now far smaller and is in fact split into two maps called Encounters (anyone familiar with the Road to Legend expansion for the original Descent will already be at home using this style of dudgeon). Each encounter has a specific set of win conditions for both the Heroes and the Overlord which has really opened up the role of the evil player, as now they no longer have to just focus on killing the players and can use monsters for specific roles (Kobolds make for a great speed bump in Encounters which involve collecting objectives, whilst Dragons and Demons are good during encounters that allow you to re-spawn monsters as reinforcements).

Add to this the fact that the game is designed to be played as a campaign first and as stand alone games second and you have game that you can break out in an evening whilst still being able to play other games, whilst still linking the games together. Not something which was manageable with the last edition.

Token Removal
The designers have done a great job of drastically reducing the number of tokens needed. Whether it is removing the terrain tokens needed during set up (coloured coded outlines on the tiles now denote the terrain effects), the inclusion of cards for condition effects instead of tokens (so that players have the rules for the condition in front of them) or the removal of the Glyphs and Potions the game now has far less chits needed to play. This has not only reduced the set up time but also made the box control much easier.

Beyond these changes the introduction of Open Groups of monsters in most of the Encounters has really opened up the re-playability of the game as the Overlord players can choose from a set list of monster types during set up. This allows those players that invested in all the expansions from the first edition to continue to use the models they own.

This leads me to my only gripe with the new edition – you can’t use any of the old dungeon tiles. Whilst it is understandable to avoid any confusion or players from simply downloading the rulebooks and using the old box contents, it would be really nice to have a reason to keep hold of old tiles (and there really are a lot) to use with the new, improved rules set. I don’t really want to have to use the old rules and scenarios. Even if it was a pdf conversion of the old scenarios into the new system that they sold through their website I’d happily pay for it.

So beyond these changes all the successes of the previous edition remain as players have a great way to role-play out their dungeon adventures, whilst the Overlord is more than just a facilitator of the other player’s enjoyment.

5 out of 5 (if you have the first edition expansions and the conversion kit, though that makes it one of the most expensive games I can think of!)

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